Overview: The Evolution of Smart Grid 1.0 To 2.0

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Nov 21, 2013 (3 years and 6 months ago)

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Executive Summary
The smart grid has drawn increasing investment
and market player participation over the past
five years, millions of smart meters have been
deployed in the United States and other countries,
and the rate of deployment of smart meters and
distribution automation nodes is only increasing.
While historically smart meter communication
networks have been self-built by utilities, there
is renewed interest in collaborating with mobile
network operators (MNOs) to enable smart grid
connectivity. Several factors are driving this interest,
among these are:
• Cellular connectivity costs for smart grid
data have declined significantly over the
past few years and now hover around $0.50
per meter per month.
• Cellular embedded radio modules have now
reached pricing levels of around $15 per
module for GPRS and $35 per module for
WCDMA, in comparison to pricing levels
of nearly $30 for a GPRS module just two
years ago.
• Recognition that capital-constrained
utilities may best expend resources on
energy delivery infrastructure, rather than
communications infrastructure, combined
with a general push to make rate recovery
regulations more equitable in the treatment
of CAPEX and OPEX.
Collaborating with an MNO to provide outsourced
smart grid communications services while the utility
focuses on its core competency of energy delivery can be
likened to the general trend towards cloud computing
and outsourced services in the broader IT world. Just as
companies such as Virgin America, National Geographic,
and Genentech are now relying on Google to provide
hosted email and productivity software services, utilities
such as TNMP (Texas-New Mexico Power Company)
in Texas are collaborating with MNOs like AT&T to
provide hosted smart grid communications services.
This can be characterized as a shift from “Smart Grid
1.0” to “Smart Grid 2.0.”
Utilities considering a shift from a Smart Grid
1.0 communications paradigm to a Smart Grid 2.0
communications model have a number of important
factors to consider. They should look beyond just
the cost of communications equipment and services
and consider additional direct cost factors, such as
deployment and O&M, as well as more indirect factors
leading to an optimal smart grid communications
deployment (core competency, scalability, security,
and robustness). Taking a more holistic viewpoint,
ABI Research believes that many utilities will find
significant benefit to collaborating with MNOs for
their smart grid communications needs.
While Duke Energy, with its February 2011 whitepaper –
“Duke Energy: Developing the communications platform
to enable a more intelligent electric grid” – positioning
itself as a proponent of cellular connectivity for smart grid
Overview: The Evolution of Smart Grid 1.0 To 2.0
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communications, is the highest profile utility to embrace
a Smart Grid 2.0 paradigm, other utilities are currently
making the same choices. TNMP cites both financial
and operational benefits from outsourcing its smart grid
communications. Among these are: meter reading costs
using cellular lower than the utilities manual meter reading
costs, greater robustness and security, avoided up-front
deployment expenses, greater future extensibility of the
network, and more standards-based interoperability/
avoidance of stranded assets.
Introduction
What Is a “Smart Grid”?
A smart grid is an energy generation, transmission, and
distribution system equipped with an advanced two-way
communications system that allows for greater visibility,
control, and automation over the system for the utility
operator. At the same time, it provides a greater level of
energy usage choices and automation for customers. The
installation of a smart meter is often the most visible
element of the smart grid, but it is by no means the only
component that makes a utility grid smart.
Ultimately, what makes a grid smart is the technology to
monitor in real time the current operational state of the
generation, transmission, and distribution network and
the ability to automatically respond to those conditions
as quickly as possible. This broad vision of the smart
grid provides overlapping benefits to both utilities
and customers. The primary goal is to provide greater
visibility, transparency, and control over the generation,
delivery, and use of electric power.
An additional benefit of a smart grid is reduced costs for
the utility due to improved operational efficiencies. It also
provides the opportunity to deploy new revenue models,
pricing schemes, and operational policies that allow the
integration of more environmentally friendly sources of
power while protecting utility profitability through various
incentives, rebates, or rate structures. Moreover, a smart
grid gives consumers the opportunity to better monitor and
control their utility bills through demand shifting and the
use of private generation assets.
Smart Grid Marketing Opportunities
Chart 1, on the following page, illustrates ABI Research’s
forecast of the installed base of smart meters by region.
Europe is currently the largest market for smart metering
technology, and will remain so for the forecast period.
However, other regions will experience greater growth over
the forecast period. Consequently, Europe’s overall share
will decline by 2016.
In relative terms, North America will see stronger
growth from 2012 onward as key projects in several
US states and Canadian provinces start hitting
volume deployments. In particular, California,
Texas, and Ontario have seen large-scale deployment
of smart meters.
The Asia-Pacific region will see the highest growth rate
over the forecast period, but this region is starting from a
small base. In addition to large smart meter deployments
in Australia, Japan, and South Korea, there is significant
potential for the deployment of smart meters in China, as
a result of Chinese central government planning.
Latin America and the Middle East and Africa are likely
to remain marginal markets for smart metering throughout
the forecast period.
Chart 1
: Total Smart Meter Installed Base by Region
World Market, Forecast: 2010-2016

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In Chart 2, below, we compare total cumulative spending
on smart meters versus transmission and distribution
infrastructure related to smart grids (also referred to as
distribution automation  DA). T&D infrastructure for
smart grid communications will significantly outpace smart
meter expenditures across the board. This phenomenon
will be due largely to the utilities’ efforts to implement
upgrades to the grid that provide enhanced stability,
security, and operational control. Such upgrades can offer
immediate improvements in grid reliability and efficiency
compared with the delayed benefits of smart meters. Much
of this growth will be due to spending around the world,
particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, with Japan, South
Korea, China, and Australia making significant back-end
grid investments.
Chart 2
: Cumulative Smart Meter Spending vs. T&D Spending
World Market, Forecast: 2010-2015
From Smart Grid 1.0 to Smart Grid 2.0
If the traditional model for smart grid deployment
is for a utility to design, build, and manage a private
communications network (typically with the aid of
consultants and system integrators), then we can imagine
a “Smart Grid 2.0” paradigm following a very different
model. Such a model would, in our view, entail the utility
forgoing the expense and effort of a private network build
out, and, instead, contracting with a communications
service provider, such as a mobile network operator
(MNO) to provide the network connectivity underlying
the smart grid’s communications.
This model recognizes that utilities’ core competency is
in energy delivery, not communications, and that there
are global companies with deep expertise in providing
world-class communications services as their core area
of business focus. We can analogize Smart Grid 2.0
with the cloud computing paradigm that is starting to
take hold in other areas of technology deployment. For
example, many companies, including Virgin America,
National Geographic, and Genentech, are increasingly
turning to Google and its Google Apps service to obtain
communications and productivity software as a hosted
service, rather than as software that the enterprise
customer hosts and manages itself on in-house servers.
Of course, energy delivery is a critical component of a
society’s infrastructure, and utilities must ensure that
the evolution to adding communications capability as
part of an overall smart grid deployment does not pose
a risk to utility operations and the smooth delivery of
energy to customers. It is this risk aversion that has
led many utilities to want to have direct control over all
aspects of their operations, including communications.
However, while utilities’ risk aversion is completely
understandable, these utilities’ assessment of risk,
specifically the risk of contracting with an MNO or
other communications service provider for underlying
smart grid communications, may not incorporate a full
picture of the technologies and capabilities MNOs
can offer them. For example, there is a common
misperception in the market that MNOs utilize the
same network for utility smart grid communications as
they do for their traditional mobile phone customers.
In important respects, the cellular infrastructure used
mobile telephony is NOT the infrastructure used to support
the smart grid. While it is certainly true that MNOs use
the same radio access network for all communications,
the mobile core network  for example, the GGSNs that
serve as mobile packet gateways and the HLRs that hold
remote device identifying information  are separate
for smart and other machine-to-machine applications
from the core network used for traditional mobile phone
services. Likewise, MNOs are increasingly using M2M
service delivery platforms (SDPs) to provide automated
provisioning, remote diagnostics, and other M2M-
specific management functionality. Separate core network
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infrastructure and separate management platforms lead to
increased quality of service (QoS) and enhanced security,
compared to traditional mobile telephony services.
Furthermore, while the massive scale of the mobile
telephony services market funds the deployment of
MNOs’ network infrastructure, MNOs certainly do not
relate to utilities (or other M2M business customers) in
the same way that they relate to their mobile telephony
subscribers. MNOs have established M2M business
units, with deep vertical market expertise, to align
their efforts with the needs of customers. For example,
MNOs can build out the radio access network to connect
remote areas of a utility’s service territory with cellular
connectivity, at the utility’s request.
Total Cost of Ownership Assessment
Utilities considering a shift from a Smart Grid 1.0
communications paradigm to a Smart Grid 2.0
out-sourced P2P (Point-to-Point) communications
infrastructure have a number of important factors to
consider. These are:

Cost:
Specifically, we are referring to the
“hard costs” of communications
equipment and services, as well as any
related planning, hiring, and logistical
expenses related to deployment.

Scalability:
Smart grid deployments
can encompass millions of end-
points and an exponentially greater
data flow into the utilities’ head-end
management and data analytics systems.

Security:
Both physical- and cyber-
security are significant concerns for
utilities in the context of preventing
malicious interference with utility
operations and ensuring customer privacy.

Robustness:
The ability to quickly and efficiently
recover from natural and man-made disasters is
a vital function of utility operations.
To further demonstrate the need for evaluating the
benefit to a utility of working with an MNO beyond
simply an accounting of initial equipment costs and
communications fees, ABI Research has prepared a
qualitative assessment that compares the key general
differences in cost factors between a utility self-
built smart grid network versus a smart grid network
that relies on an MNO-provided communications
infrastructure. We illustrate the key differences
below in Table 1.
Table 1
: Comparison of Hard and Soft Costs Associated with Smart
Grid Deployment
Utility Self-Built Communications Network versus Use of Cellular
Network for Smart Grid Deployment
The assessment in Table 1 is underpinned by a quantitative
model that examines the “hard costs” for an AMI
deployment using a utility self-built communications
network versus the hard costs for using an MNO to provide
communications services. We view such hard costs as
comprising the initial deployment expenses (e.g., planning,
hiring, training, project logistics, etc.), capital equipment,
on-going communication fees, and on-going operations &
maintenance (O&M) expenses.
However, we view such hard costs as only “half the
story” and believe incorporating an assessment of “soft
costs,” including an evaluation of core competency, and
communications robustness, security, and scalability,
are also critical to a proper evaluation. As such, and in
recognition that different smart grid projects vary widely
in details, we have elected to focus on this qualitative/
illustrative presentation, rather than delve into a specific
quantitative analysis.
In detail, ABI Research believes a full assessment is as follows:
1)
Deployment:
Deployment costs associated with
planning, hiring, and logistics are higher for a self-
built communications network than for a smart grid
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that relies on a cellular network. The cost differential is
less for distribution automation (DA), but widens
again for field force automation (FFA); there is
very little non-capital equipment deployment cost with
an MNO-provided FFA solution.
2)
Capital Equipment Investment:
Capital equipment
investment for AMI is much less for a self-build network
than for a cellular network solution, owing mainly to
5x – 10x differential in modem pricing between an RF
mesh or PLC radio in a self-built network versus the
more expensive GPRS or WCDMA cellular radios.
ABI Research believes that equipment costs are roughly
the same for DA and FFA equipment whether for a self-
built or cellular smart grid communications network.
3)
Communications Service Expense:
On-going
communications costs are also an area of relative
advantage for self-built networks over cellular networks,
owing to the monthly service fee charged for cellular
communications. It is important to point out, however,
that MNOs have dramatically lowered their pricing for
smart grid communications, to make their service more
competitive. For example, AT&T now has a $0.50/MB
per meter per month rate that allow for pooled data
across a utility’s meter base.
4)
Operations & Maintenance:
Similar to initial
deployment costs, on-going operations and maintenance
(O&M) costs associated with communications (e.g.,
management and upgrade of the communications
network) are less with a cellular network, as the MNO
takes responsibility for management and upgrade. In
a sense, the higher communications costs with cellular
networks simply reflect a shift in responsibility for
maintaining the underlying network.
5)
Core Competency:
In addition to the “hard costs”
described above, ABI Research believes there are a
number of “soft costs” benefits to working with an MNO
for smart grid communications. Though somewhat
intangible, the simple fact is that utilities do not have
a core competency in network communications. This
inevitably means that on average their costs will be
higher and their efficiency will be lower, in both direct
and indirect ways, compared to MNOs and other
communication service providers. Equally important,
their activities in deploying communications are a
distraction from their core business of delivery energy
to customers.
6)
Robustness:
That utilities provide mission-critical
infrastructure and robustness in the face of natural
disasters or other disruptive events is important While
all smart grids enhance robustness by enabling faster
locating of disabled infrastructure, MNO-provided
cellular network service also has the advantage in
leveraging MNO disaster-recovery resources to bring
the network back online quickly should there be
disruption. For example, MNOs can deploy mobile
base stations throughout a disaster recovery area usually
within 24 hours after an event.
7)
Security:
Security mechanisms and standards are
still being developed for smart grid communications.
Nevertheless, a network topology that utilizes secure
P2P connections from the smart meter directly to the
cellular network provides attractive security benefits:
if one meter is compromised the rest of the smart
grid infrastructure should remain isolated and secure.
Furthermore, cellular-enabled smart meters are able
to be tracked on the network if stolen, as occasionally
happens.
8)
Scalabity:
MNOs obviously have a core competency
in deploying and managing communications networks
many times larger than even the largest utilities. Utilities
can leverage this experience and skill set. For example,
in a self-build RF mesh deployment data might have
to travel 5 or 6 hops from the smart meter to the data
concentrator, which degrades already limited bandwidth.
This can have a negative impact on functionality such as
firmware downloads. Cellular-connected smart meters
benefit from higher bandwidth and connectivity to an
already massive cellular infrastructure.
Case Study: Texas New Mexico Power
Company
Company Introduction?
TNMP (Texas-New Mexico Power Company),
a subsidiary of PNM Resources, is the fourth-
largest electricity distribution company in the
Texas ERCOT market, with approximately 230,000
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electricity meters in the company’s service territory.
The company has roughly 350 employees working in
20 communities throughout Texas. Figure 1, below,
illustrates TNMP’s service territory, encompassing
communities in the west, northeast, and southeast
areas of the state.
Figure 1: TNMP Service Coverage Map
As an electricity transmission and distribution company in
Texas’s deregulated electricity market, TNMP is responsible
for:
1) Delivering electricity to business and consumer end-
users of energy.
2) Providing accurate and timely meter readings to retail
energy providers (REPs) for billing purposes.
3) Connecting and disconnecting service to end-users, as
requested by the REPs.
4) Repairing transmission and distribution infrastructure
promptly in the event of power outages.3)
Connecting and disconnecting service to end-users, as
requested by the REPs.
5) Constructing and maintaining the electricity delivery
infrastructure including the poles and wires that
transmit electricity.
TNMP does not generate its own electricity nor does
it maintain a direct billing relationship with end-user
customers. These functions are handled by other players in
the value chain, as a result of the deregulation in the Texas
ERCOT market, in contrast to the more typical vertically
integrated utilities in other states.
Smart Grid Deployment Details
TNMP began to investigate the deployment of an AMI
system primarily as a result of the deregulation of the
Texas electricity market in 2007. A further incentive for
deployment came with the realization that meter reading
costs with an AMI system would be less than the roughly
$2 per meter per month cost that TNMP calculated was
the company’s cost for traditional manual meter reading
operations.
The company started to issue RFPs (request for proposals)
and to establish pilot projects in 2007. Early in this process it
became clear that RF mesh technology would be untenable
given TNMP’s fragmented service territory and often low
meter density. The company did conduct a small trial of
100 smart meters connected via power-line carrier (PLC)
technology, but finally decided to deploy its AMI system
using cellular networks for communications.
TNMP had deployed 13,000 smart meters connected via
cellular as of July 2011. These were deployed as part of a
final pilot project. The company received final approval also
in July 2011 to launch its full-scale smart grid deployment
to all of its 240,000 meters. The deployment commenced in
August 2011 and will occur over roughly five years.
Figure 2, below, provides a conceptual schematic of
TNMP’s planned smart grid deployment, incorporating
cellular networks at the heart of the communications
layer of the AMI system. AT&T is the primary mobile
network operator (MNO) providing cellular connectivity.
SmartSynch, based in Jackson, Mississippi, is the primary
AMI technology vendor.
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Figure 2: TNMP Smart Grid Network Diagram
As illustrated in Figure 2, TNMP uses cellular connections
directly to smart meters, DA network elements, and
personnel in the field. Data is transmitted back to the
utility head-end systems over a secure IP network.
TNMP envisions a range of use cases for the system in
the future, but near-term the primary focus is on enabling
automated meter reading. The smart meters collect and
store 96 reads per day (15-minute intervals) and push
the data back to TNMP over the AT&T network to the
SmartSynch Transaction Management System (TMS).
The TMS performs an initial processing of the data and
contacts any meters that did not transmit their data in the
initial data transfer. Typically, this involves less than 0.6%
of the meter base.
Once the TMS has finished processing the meter data, the
data is put into XML format and transferred to TNMP’s
head-end systems via secure FTP. TNMP performs some
additional processing and then sends the final data to the
Smart Meter Texas web portal for access by the public
(specifically, customers of the REPs).
Benefits Derived From the Use of Cellular Networks for
Smart Grid Connectivity
TNMP cites a number of benefits from its decision to
utilize cellular connectivity for smart grid communications,
which can be grouped broadly into two categories, financial
and operational:
FINANCIAL
TNMP is capital-constrained, as are most utilities. Utilities
can apply to their public utility commissions (PUC) for
“recovery” of capital investments, through rate increases,
including a regulated rate of return on invested capital.
However, PUCs are looking very hard at such applications
and certainly require that smart grid projects to be managed
as efficiently as possible.
TNMP found that the costs of hiring, training, and
organizing the staff needed to plan, deploy, and manage a
self-built smart grid communications network outweighed
the lower initial equipment costs of a “typical” self-built
network utilizing RF mesh or PLC compared to utilizing
cellular radios. By utilizing AT&T’s network, the utility can
invest capital on enhancement of energy delivery, rather than
on communication technology deployment. Certainly, the
highly fragmented character of TNMP’s service territory
across Texas added to the technical and organizational
challenge of deploying an RF mesh or PLC based network,
as well.
TNMP also sees a benefit in utilizing cellular connectivity
for its FFA functionality, which it terms “ServiceSuite.”
ServiceSuite currently enables voice/data communications
for workers in the field and will be expanded to encompass
mobile logistics functionality. TNMP benefits from the
large data pool it has contracted with AT&T for smart
meter functionality to get discounts on FFA connectivity
costs. Cellular-based FFA connectivity is also a benefit to
the utility given the fragmented TNMP service territory.
OPERATIONAL
TNMP values the benefit of having AT&T and SmartSynch
focus on management of the communications network,
leaving the utility free to focus on its core competency of
energy transmission and delivery.
Cellular networks benefit from the massive scale and
standards-based technology of the mobile services industry.
AT&T is responsible for extending and upgrading its
network, and the cost of doing so is amortized across millions
of mobile phone users, rather than solely borne by utility
operations. TNMP believes it has been negatively impacted
by using proprietary protocols in the past, and specifically
wanted a modularized, extensible solution that eliminates
stranded assets. Over the lifetime of the deployment, the
utility feels this will be much more efficient.
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TNMP views cellular network connectivity as inherently
more robust and more secure than a self-built network.
If the network were to be disrupted by natural disaster,
for example, AT&T will take responsibility for quickly
restoring connectivity. AT&T has long experience and deep
expertise in securing mobile communications and can apply
this to TNMP’s smart grid communications. Furthermore,
due to the P2P nature of cellular communications, if one
smart meter is compromised, the other smart meters in the
system remain isolated from the threat; there are no utility-
specific data concentrators at risk of being compromised.
Additionally, if any meter is stolen, AT&T potentially can
locate and facilitate recovery of the meter using cellular
network location-based services.
Finally, available bandwidth is higher using a P2P cellular
network rather than a shared RF mesh network or PLC.
While high bandwidth is not a critical need for meter
reading operations, TNMP anticipates that bandwidth
needs will increase in the future as new applications
are deployed on the smart grid. For example, the utility
envisions public service announcements related to volatile
weather conditions in Texas to be transmitted someday over
the smart grid network into the home.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Utilities, particularly in North America, have
traditionally favored developing and deploying their own
telecommunications systems. There are many reasons for
this, including: capital investment rate recovery regulations,
relative cost differentials in the past between self-built
networks and cellular connectivity, and “not-invented-here”
concerns about out-sourced infrastructure.
Now, however, with cellular data rates for utility smart grid
operations sharply reduced from levels of just a few years
ago, with embedded cellular communications modules also
dropping quickly in price, and with a general reconsideration
of the regulations favoring CAPEX rate recovery over
OPEX, now may be the time for utilities to look more
closely at collaborating with MNOs for their smart grid
communications needs.
Certainly, the publication of the Duke white paper, “Duke
Energy: Developing the communications platform to enable
a more intelligent electric grid” in February 2011, appears
to have focused fresh attention on the potential benefits of
cellular connectivity for smart grid communications. Duke
is the largest utility in the United States and the white
paper squarely positions the company as an advocate for
focusing on its own core competency of energy delivery,
and collaborating with cellular value chain companies,
particularly MNOs, for communications expertise.
ABI Research expects that as the fundamental “hard
cost” structure of cellular connectivity for smart grid
communications continues to grow increasingly favorable
to utility business case development, there will be more
utilities choosing to focus on their own core competencies
around energy delivery, and rely on communications
service providers to manage the communications network.
MNOs, with robust, secure, national-scale communications
infrastructure, are in a prime position to assist utilities with
their smart grid communications needs.
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About the Authors/Firm
Joshua Flood
,
Senior Analyst, Smart Cities and
Smart Grids
Based in the UK, Josh Flood is a
Research Analyst for ABI Research’s
global automotive and clean energy
technologies practice. The practice
includes topics such as smart energy
and smart grid, renewable energy
generation and storage, photovoltaic
and wind power, energy harvesting, home energy
management systems, charging technologies for portable
devices, smart grid applications, e-waste recovery and
recycling, and batteries and fuel cells.
Josh is an experienced market analyst with strong analytical
and relationship-building skills. Prior to joining ABI
Research he worked for Harris Interactive as a Research
Account Manager for its business, industrial and consumer
sectors on custom research projects.
Previous to his work at Harris Interactive, Josh served as
a Market Analyst at IMS Research, producing in-depth
reports on the power management and power supply
markets.
Josh holds a BA (Hons) in Accounting from the University
of Liverpool.
Sam Lucero
,
Practice Directory, M2M & Embedded
As head of ABI Research’s M2M
Connectivity group, Sam Lucero manages
the firm’s strategic and quantitative
assessment of the global markets for
Cellular M2M Connectivity, Wireless
Sensor Networking, Home Automation,
and WirelessHealthcare/m Health
technologies.
His extensive research experience across multiple networking
and semiconductor markets gives him a broad perspective
on how wireless connectivity markets are evolving.
Prior to joining ABI Research, Sam was a networking
equipment analyst at In-Stat, where he managed that firm’s
Ethernet switch market tracking service.Josh holds a BA
(Hons) in Accounting from the University of Liverpool.
He has been widely quoted in news and trade journals,
including the New York Times, the Economist, Investor’s
Business Daily, Bloomberg, the Financial Times,
BusinessWeek.com, CNNMoney.com, USA Today, the
San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the
Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston
Chronicle, SmartMoney.com, Network World, CNET,
Wireless Week, CommsDesign, Light Reading, and more.
In addition, Sam has been a judge in various telecom and
M2M awards programs, including those hosted by CTIA
and GSMA.
After graduating from the University of California at San
Diego, Sam spent three years working in Japan before
returning to the US to earn an MBA with honors from
Thunderbird, School of Global Management.
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• industry benchmarking
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Published 3Q 2011

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